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Benefit featured surprise guest

Don Regis-Bilar
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Dawson Cloutier, 7, facing camera, chats with his buddies during a recent fund-raiser in his honor. Dawson is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor.
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It was the sort of Tahoe day that those of us who are able to indulge, do: puffs of random clouds in an otherwise pale blue sky, flashes of sunlight filtered by pines and 65 degrees at 4:30 p.m. on June 26.

More than 100 people gathered in my back yard to celebrate 7-year-old Dawson Cloutier’s remarkable recovery from surgery to remove a brain tumor. The guests were there to show support for the Cloutier family.

Dawson’s surprise appearance changed what began as a somber occasion into a celebration of life – of smiles, tears and hugs all around. Even the most stoic of us could not help being moved by the image of a delighted and overwhelmed Dawson surrounded by his gleeful first-grade classmates. Expected to fully recover, Dawson was walking, talking and even running with his pals. He shyly approached the stage mike, coaxed on by his father and said, “Thank you friends.”

More than $3,000 was raised at the dinner, bringing to a total of over $5,000 that has been raised thus far. At the dinner, there was a raffle, a live auction, live music, two banquet tables of food brought by family friends and beverages brought by guests and donated by Kings Liquors. For every event we have done in my back yard, Nel’s Tahoe Hardware has donated, delivered and picked up the tables and chairs. My neighbors contribute their refrigerators, dishwashers and patience with the disturbance in the neighborhood.

The Dawson Cloutier benefit dinner was simply for us, as the Friends of Patrick Bennett, a perfect way to mark our 10-year anniversary. For 10 years, we have been producing events at venues ranging from my back yard to Riva Grill on the Lake. Our purpose has been to bring awareness to causes, to honor individuals and groups for the good works they do and to lend a hand when possible. Over the past 10 years, hundreds of business and thousands of individuals have made our efforts a success. We are, the dozens of us who make up the Friends of Patrick Bennett, deeply touched and honored by such continued support.

In his lifetime our namesake, the late Patrick Bennett, had two heroes: noted professor of Immunology, AIDS and Infectious Disease at UC Davis, Dr. Neil Flynn, who was Patrick’s physician as well, and PBS television’s Mr. Rogers. Integrated personalities were the characteristics, from Patrick’s view, that these two men shared – that they were two people so well-grounded within themselves, that they were able to share their skills and talents for the greater good. The Dawson Cloutier Benefit Dinner embodied that very same philosophy – of individuals from all walks of life brought together by a little boy and the courage of his family.

On a personal note, I have become, admittedly, a mostly cynical middle-aged man – a little burned out after 22 ragged years at the South Shore – who has little general faith in humanity and justice.

But on one recent Sunday evening when my two cats, Boogie and Ted, were being loved by children led by one special kid with a jagged surgical scar on his shaved head – well, I just had to get weepy.

The Cloutiers – Dawson, his younger brother, Connor, and their parents, Linda and Keith – have allowed us, as a community, to glimpse their family in crisis: fragile, fearful and ultimately resilient. Their acceptance of community support with grace and gratitude encourages us to keep doing what we do. Contributions for Dawson Cloutier can be sent to U.S. Bank, 2850 Lake Tahoe Blvd. South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150. Call (530) 542-1801.

The Friends of Patrick Bennett will be hosting the fourth annual Riva Grill AIDS Benefit on Aug. 29.

For more information contact (530) 544-6959 or elevation6250ft@aol.com.


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